Friday, January 05, 2007

Dog Food for Breakfast?

As my train arrived in Busan at about 11:00, I realized I would have a couple of hours before my ferry to get some breakfast. It was still early, and I was afraid that many places would be closed, and I hoped some shops might be opening for lunch soon, especially around a busy train station.

Turns out I was lucky, and several places were open around the Busan station. I quickly found one with a picture menu and easy to read prices and took off my pack for breakfast. I was perusing the menu, when I noticed a familiar character for which I had halfheartedly searched for since my arrival in Korea. In Seoul, my couchsurfing host Jiyoung Lee had written down what to look for (discreetly she urged, as the Koreans are somewhat sensitive about this subject) to keep in my pocket. I fished through my pockets and the top of my pack to finally find a little piece of paper with the cryptic Hangul characters depicting a curious eccentricity of Korean cuisine. I found the slip of paper and confirmed that this was indeed on the menu. I had at long last found nothing less than dog meat soup.

The middle aged man gave me a bit of a look when I pointed to what I wanted, but promptly left to bring me my dish. I hate to admit it, but the primary reason I wanted to eat dog meat was simply to be able to say truthfully, "I have eaten dog meat before!" So at some point in the future, I will be able to brag about this and gross out any young children I talk to. The organism currently incubating in my sister comes to mind.

While it was pretty good, it was somewhat anti-climactic, and tasted like a couple of other soups I had tried in Korea. The soup was a little bit salty, but delicious, while the surrounding vegetables were very spicy. The meat itself was somewhat tough, and very lean. I can say that it didn't taste like chicken, and tasted more like pork, only slightly leaner and stringier.

The following is a list of all the types of meat I can recall eating in my life. Can you top this?

1. Beef: An American staple

2. Pork: The other white meat.

3. Chicken: The cheapest meat in Japan, and my main staple for three years.

4. Turkey: Great on the American Holiday of Thanksgiving. Makes you sleepy.

5. Lamb: A staple on Easter Sunday, and probably the cutest meat on the list.

6. Buffalo: Another American staple, they were nearly extinct in the early 20th century, but have since made a modest revival on the great plains. Now health nuts bill it as a great alternative to beef.

7. Deer: Venison is great, but kind of pricey unless you hunt.

8. Elk: I suppose this is also technically venison. A friend of David Hanson's gave me a heap of steaks in college once. Not so hard to come by if you live in Northern Arizona. Jerry Driesens in Pagosa Springs always has it around as well.

9. Horse: This is a delicacy in parts of Japan. Basashi, (raw horsemeat) is great and I have had several different cuts, including the underbelly, hind legs, and mane. The mane is the leanest and tastiest.

10. Fish: I have had too many types to recall, so I will only mention the unusual ones in the posts below.

11. Dog: See above description. Koreans are somewhat sensitive about eating dogs, because they love their pet dogs so much, as my couchsurfing host Jiyoung tells me. They have a special breed that is just for eating. It is also kind of a macho food as I am told.

12. Whale Meat: School lunches in Japan are usually quite delicious. While whale meat isn't so bad, but I'm not sure my strong environmental convictions will allow me to eat it ever again (provided I pay attention to what I'm eating).

13. Kangaroo: More of an Australian staple, as we don't have these in America.

14. Crocodile: Another Australian staple. Tastes more like fish than chicken.

15. Rattlesnake: When I was a kid, I recall my dad telling me I was eating rattlesnake. From the beginning of high school, I grew less naive and became more skeptical of his often dubious assertions. But I believed him then, and that's good enough for me. (Mom, can you confirm or deny this?)

16. Shark: Another one of those foods that I probably shouldn't have eaten for environmental reasons, but my curiosity beat out my ecological conscience. Delicious, but just another fish. If you haven't had this, you aren't missing much.

Revisions/ Additions Since this Day:

17. Pidgeon: An Egyptian staple I suppose. Had this for the first time in Luxor. Tastes like dark chicken meat or turkey, although slightly more greasy. The Egyptians stuff it with rice and you have to dig around it and the bones to get at the meat. Tasty, but too greasy and too many bones.(Modified January 5th, 2008, although events took place December 29th, 2007)

18. Ostrich: Eating an ostrich steak was disturbingly like eating a beef steak. It was just a little bit more But not much. If you served it to me and told me it was a cow, I probably wouldn't notice until several bites into it.

19. Rabbit/Hare: Probably even cuter than lamb. Had this at a Moroccan restaurant with my parents in Denver. I never blogged about it though. Pretty good. I only wish I could say the rest of the food at this establishment was more than mediocre.


Dave Hanson said...

Tyler, I am soooo jealous. Ever since my old nutrition professor (also Korean) told me of her passion for dog meat, I have been longing to try this delicacy. You beat me too it! But it sounds like life is going well for you. i miss you lots my friend. Hopefully we can see each other in the semi-near future. And maybe share some dog soup!

Tyler Beal said...

so dave, do u have a blog now?